Program aims to change ‘TIDES’ for transition students

Timothy Alexander, who is a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, served as a guest speaker welcoming high school juniors and seniors to TIDES.

Timothy Alexander, who is a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, served as a guest speaker welcoming high school juniors and seniors to TIDES

A  new initiative rolled out in Birmingham this summer to increase employability skills for teenagers with disabilities.

The transition program named TIDES – teen interns developing employability skills – placed one dozen high school juniors and seniors with various disabilities in paid internship programs working for Birmingham Parks and Recreation.

The program began to take shape when State Sen. Linda Coleman,  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance officer for the city of Birmingham, received a grant to fund a two pilot programs for summer internships for students with disabilities, said Yolanda Spencer, transition field unit supervisor.

The TIDES project kicked off June 9 with a one-week job readiness training program, which was held at the Boutwell Memorial Auditorium. Following the one-week training, a six-week paid summer internship program allowed the teenagers to hone job skills,  including team building, job readiness, and travel training. All 12 students in the program worked as camp counselors.

Brandon Pinkney, a student who has Muscular Dystrophy, is interning as a camp counselor through the TIDES program.

Brandon Pinkney, a student who has muscular dystrophy, worked as a camp counselor through the TIDES program

Though the summer internship concluded on July 18, the program will continue to monitor each of the student’s progress throughout the next school year and will use gathered data to assist the students in meeting life goals after graduation.

“I’m so proud of all of our participants in this program,” Spencer said. “They have all successfully completed the program, and we are working to have a special ceremony during a city council meeting to acknowledge the students. Next year, we hope to have all of this year’s participants back as post-students.”

The TIDES program is a joint collaboration of Vocational Rehabilitation Service, the City of Birmingham Office of ADA Compliance, and the Birmingham City Schools.

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